Forget AR glasses; according to a new patent filed by Facebook, the social media giant is working on an AR helmet that would increase the device's immersion and allow for more advanced AR activities within a standalone unit. The patent was discovered by Founders Legal, which also published a brief overview of some of the device's important features, indicating that Facebook may be considering building an AR headgear rather than AR spectacles (which Facebook is also working on).
To avoid direct touch with the user, the display would be built into the hat's brim. Furthermore, heat-generating components required to power the virtual reality display can be treated similarly and integrated into portions of the hat that do not come into direct touch with the user, such as the brim. So a hat provides more spatial options for the required components than glasses alone, which could make it a better option for more immersive, free-standing AR use, while Founders Legal also points out that the expanded surface area of the device would allow for the addition of more digital sensors, such as face tracking tools, microphones, and environment sensors, among other things.
The artificial reality system's added weight may be evenly distributed across the hat's band, rather than concentrated on a few pressure points like the top of the user's ears and the bridge of their nose, resulting in a far more user-friendly and comfortable experience. All of this makes sense, but would it look better? That may appear to be a less important, perhaps even insignificant factor, but the fact is that if AR glasses don't look beautiful, even if they do give utility, people will not wear them, and adoption will be difficult.
With Google Glass, Google learned this the hard way, with the device's geeky reputation swiftly outweighing most, if not all, of its potential benefit. Of course, the device had other flaws, but the appearance of the spectacles alone was regarded a significant factor in market rejection, putting the device's promise as a consumer product to rest. Snapchat recognized this when it first developed Spectacles, which is why it is focusing on the design and appearance of the glasses, whereas Facebook has partnered with EssilorLuxottica, the makers of Ray-Ban, to develop its upcoming smart glasses, the first iteration of which will be released soon.
However, that first iteration is unlikely to be completely AR-enabled, as Facebook is already marketing its first AR devices as smart glasses, which, like Spectacles, will allow the wearer to record photographs and video of their real-world perspective, among other things. Perhaps Facebook's first foray into the AR wearable space will be an AR hat. The ability to include more features makes sense, and if they look good enough and don't make you appear like you're walking around the mall in a space helmet, it may be a viable alternative, depending on where Facebook takes it. The present disclosure discloses several methods for adding artificial reality components into various hat-based form factors, such as baseball caps, visors, cowboy hats, fedoras, and the like.
M'lady, an AR fedora. That one looks like it's going to be a disaster.
It's an intriguing thought, but it's also worth noting that Facebook has made no mention of an ARhat in any of its updates or disclosures about its in-development AR capabilities. That could imply that the alternative has been shelved - or, to use a metaphor, hanging up on the hat rack. The patent was first filed on June 19th, 2019. In any case, it's worth keeping an eye on the various advances in the AR/VR area, as well as where Facebook is looking as it moves forward with its approach.